LEXINGTON, Ky. — Evan White went 3-for-3 with a home run and Dustin Beggs won his sixth straight start to open the season, leading No. 29 Kentucky to a 7-4 win over No. 1 Florida to even the three-game series and snap the Gators 17-game winning streak, on a perfect Saturday afternoon in front of a season-best 3,071 at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
Kentucky (16-6, 2-2 Southeastern Conference) snapped Florida’s 17-game winning streak – the second longest streak in UF history – with the series-evening win, after UF opened the set with a 12-5 result on Friday night. Saturday’s 7-4 win marked UK’s ninth win over a top-ranked team since 2002 and is the 62nd win over a ranked foe in the UK Coach Gary Henderson era. Under Henderson, UK has won a series against the nation’s top-ranked team in 2014 (South Carolina) and 2015 (LSU).
UK jumped out to a one-run lead in the first inning on the strength of White’s second home run of the year and Beggs cruised into the fourth inning before surrendering a game-tying homer. UK’s offense then responded with consecutive three-run innings to take a six-run lead, with the Gators mounting a sixth-inning rally that resulted in three runs for the final margin, 7-4.
A native of Roswell, Ga., Beggs (6-0) worked 5.2 innings, allowing eight hits and four runs, walking four and striking out four. He allowed a solo homer in the fourth, before Florida chased him with three, two-out runs in the sixth inning.
Beggs won his sixth consecutive game to open the season, marking the first pitcher in program history win his first six starts. On the year, Beggs has a 2.40 ERA in 41.1 innings, allowing only 28 hits and seven walks, striking out 35. In his two-year career, Beggs has a 13-4 record, ranking seventh in UK history in ERA (3.27). He has won 76 percent of his career decisions, ranking fourth in program history.
Freshman righty Justin Lewis took over in the sixth inning to face the tying run with a pair of runners on base and two outs. The 6-foot-6 righty escaped the jam to strand the runner, working the final 3.1 innings, allowing only two hits, not issuing a walk and striking out three. He earned his team-leading fourth save of the year and has a 2-0 record and a 0.50 ERA in 18 innings, allowing only seven hits.
The Wildcats collected seven runs on nine hits and three walks, with White going 3-for-3 to lead the UK attack. White extended his hitting streak to 15 games, belting his second home run of the year and adding a walk and his team-high eighth steal of the year. White is hitting .389 on the year with 25 runs, nine extra-base hits and 25 RBI.
UK also got a three-run blast from Dorian Hairston – belted to the opposite-field gap – for his second homer of the year. Junior DH Gunnar McNeill extended his hitting streak to 17 games with a two-RBI double in the fifth. UK also got hits from Storm Wilson, JaVon Shelby, Zach Reks and Troy Squires.
Florida (23-2, 4-1 SEC) starter A.J. Puk (1-2) – a candidate for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 MLB Draft – worked 4.1 innings, allowing four hits and six runs, walking two and striking out five. Florida also used Frank Rubio, Scott Moss and Brady Singer in relief.
The series will resume on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET at Cliff Hagan Stadium. The game will be broadcast live on SEC Network +, available on the ESPN app, and on the UK Radio Network, available in Lexington on WLAP 630-AM. UK will start senior righty Kyle Cody (2-1, 6.95 ERA) vs. Florida sophomore right-hander Alex Faedo (5-0, 2.61 ERA).
White got UK on the board in the bottom of the first inning, launching his second homer of the year, on a 1-2 offering from Puk, over the fence in left-centerfield.
Deacon Liput evened up the game in the top of the fourth inning, belting his second homer of the year on a high fly ball over the right-centerfield fence.
In the bottom of the fourth, UK regained the lead with a three-run frame. White opened the frame with a 10-pitch walk and was replaced by Shelby at first base on a fielder’s choice. McNeill then drew a walk to bring up Hairston with an RBI chance. Hairston worked the count 2-2 before belting an opposite-field, three-run homer into The Cliff on right-centerfield, his second blast of the year.
Kentucky chased Puk in the fifth inning, stretching it lead to 7-1. Wilson reached on a one-out single and White pushed him to third with a single to rightfield. After a pitching change, Shelby blooped an infield single over the head of Rubio and in front of the second-base bag, scoring Wilson. McNeill then pulled a two-RBI double down the line, scoring White and Shelby for a six-run advantage.
Florida rallied in the sixth inning, as Buddy Reed singled to lead off and Peter Alonso drew a one-out walk. Mike Rivera then scored the pair with a triple off the wall in leftfield. Jeremy Vasquez followed with a single to rightfield, scoring Rivera.